Most of our time in Uganda had to do with poultry farming. But the most heartwarming and rewarding time for me came on the day I spent several hours walking through the village of Ssenyomo, carrying a tote bag filled with wooden crosses that I distributed to members of this largely Catholic community.

The crosses were carved and donated by a retired gentleman from my church who is well-known for his woodworking skills as well as his generosity. We’re members of the same church group, and when he first learned I was going back to Uganda, he asked if I’d like to take some crosses with me as gifts for the villagers. In the weeks before my trip he called several times to say, “I have more crosses for you. Do you have room for them in your suitcase?”

By the time I left for Uganda, I had several large crosses, and almost fifty small ones that I managed to fit into my checked and carry-on luggage. And on a day when other members of our team were meeting with village leaders and officials, I was visiting with families.

It was a thrill for me to explain to them – sometimes directly, and sometimes through an interpreter – that the crosses were a gift from the people of my parish in the United States to the people of Ssenyomo. And it was a joy to see the gratitude and delight they expressed upon receiving them. Several of the villagers gave me gifts in return – pumpkins and pineapples – and told me to be sure to give their thanks to the members of my parish, especially the man who made the crosses, when I returned to the States.

My most memorable visit was with an elderly blind man whose broad smile I will never forget. When I handed him a cross, he held on to it – and to my hand – as if he never wanted to let go. And later, when we started to leave, he asked me to come back in and say a prayer with him. I knelt down beside him, and we said several prayers together before I stood back up, gave him a hug, and continued on to the next family.

Several of the huts and houses were close together, but there were also long stretches where I saw nothing but the dirt road we were walking on, and lush, green vegetation all around us. The sky was a bright blue, and there were no sounds other than our footsteps and voices. I don’t think I could ever find the words to describe how peaceful, how right-with-the-world it felt to be there.

The work we – and many other organizations – are doing to alleviate poverty and its effects on people throughout the world is vitally important. But it’s also important to connect with those people one-on-one. The individual contacts we have can make a world of difference, too, and I am so grateful to have an opportunity to be a part of that.

November 17, 2019
©Betty Liedtke, 2019

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